What ACEVO will be asking when the next prime minister steps through the door of number 10 is for a plan containing real action, says ACEVO head of policy Kristiana Wrixon.
In my time working for charities I have written many letters to new political appointments. The default format for such communication is: words of welcome; an overview of the purpose of your organisation; outlining organisational priorities; polite request for a meeting to talk about aforementioned issues. The tone is not usually challenging, recognising that the person in question is new to post and will need some time to get on top of their brief and decide their priorities.
But when our new prime minister takes residence at number 10 in a matter of weeks, whether that is Jeremy Hunt or Boris Johnson, we will have a prime minister that has served for a significant amount of time in Theresa May’s cabinet. This means both men have been among the most powerful politicians in our country during a period of time in which there has been a rise in emergency food supplies being given out by food banks, a rise in homelessness, a fall in the number of rape prosecutions, and a rise in the number of reported incidents of homophobic and Islamophobic hate crime. There is also an urgent need for immediate action to address the climate crisis.
Both have served in government at the same time that civil society has been straining to meet the essential needs of communities, they should therefore be aware of the challenges many people are facing. To take just one example, in the last few weeks the critical issue of under-funding of children’s hospices has been highlighted by the campaign work of parents working in partnership with charities like Acorn’s Hospice and Together for Short Lives.
In Theresa May’s inaugural speech on the steps of Downing Street she talked about fighting ‘burning injustice’ but there is little evidence that the ‘burning injustices’ she said she would prioritise have been addressed. What ACEVO will be asking when the next prime minister step through the door of number 10 is for a plan containing real action. Not warm words or a new strategy but tangible, measurable, swift action to tackle the injustices that exist across the country.
I understand that parliament has been, and will for some time, be paralysed by Brexit. But even on the issue that has been at the forefront of the political agenda for the last three years, the political response to issues raised by the sector has been inadequate, and we still do not have a consultation date for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. The Brexit Civil Society Alliance has been doing excellent work producing briefings, engaging with politicians, talking to community groups and civil society organisations across the country. But this is a hard job when there is still so much uncertainty about what Brexit will be, when it will be, or even if it will be.
Despite all the challenges I have laid out, civil society continues to be a source of hope and optimism, always working in the belief that things can be better. Charities continue to make huge practical differences to the day to day lives of millions of people each year. All of the links in the second paragraph take you to an organisation supporting its community, championing its cause and asking for change. However, I believe that their impact could be even greater, that public benefit could be increased, if our prime minister listened to and acted upon the evidence, recommendations and ideas offered to them by civil society.
ACEVO will always be open and ready to work with politicians of all parties and none at a local, regional, national and international level. If a general election were called tomorrow, the sense of urgency I write about here could be found in ACEVO’s communication to representatives of all political parties hoping to lead our country. This is why when ACEVO sends its first letter to our next prime minister, there will not be warm words of welcome but an urgent call for action. In the last few years, civil society organisations have put forward numerous proposals supported by evidence that outline how we can strengthen our society. It is now time for these to be put into action, for our new prime minister to demonstrate his commitment to creating a stronger society. We expect more for the people and causes we serve, the time for platitudes and empty promises has long since passed. It is time for action.